Some Fun (And Mostly Free) Online Games

No matter how strange your tastes are, no matter how peculiar your hobby is, you can find a game online to suit. Seriously, have you ever wanted to play a game where you can play a seal clubber? Or a turtle tamer? Or a disco bandit? Would you like to adventure around in one of the lowest tech interfaces possible, populated with stick figures and lots and lots of text? Do you like the idea of visiting exotic locations like the Orcish Frat House or the Right Side of the Tracks or the Mysterious Island of Mystery? Would you like to attempt to defeat horrifying monsters like the Sabre-toothed Lime or the Filthy Hippies? Are you good at mixing drinks and creating intriguing food items like bat wing skewers? If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, then Kingdom of Loathing is the game for you. Be forewarned, it is chockfull of puns and you may need a trip to the dentist after gritting your teeth in pain from some of these groaners.

Looking for a massively multi-player game that takes place in a post apocalyptic world? Urban Dead is a game that takes place in a world overrun with zombies. You spend your time doing what everyone does in zombie-infested worlds, concentrating on survival. You can also play as a zombie or if you get killed you'll become a zombie. If you're lucky, you'll be resurrected then it's back to business as usual, ducking and hiding and wondering just what is so attractive about your brains anyway. One of the really neat things about this game is how it has evolved since it started in July of 2005. In September zombies learned a new skill, the ankle grab. In December they started to change the way they reacted to a headshot and a few days later they started to communicate with each other. In February a warning went out to survivors that older zombies can grab onto their victims, making their attacks more lethal, so care had better be taken with hair or anything else that would enable the zombies to snatch and hold.

My favorite gaming site, Pogo.com, is a more traditional gaming environment, offering card, puzzle, arcade, word, board, casino and sports games, mostly for free. You can play everything from euchre to pinball to keno to backgammon. I've learned how to play games that I had previously only read about. Many games offer tutorials and the option to practice with robots so you can get comfortable with the rules of a new game before facing off against a human opponent. Pogo offers two choices of accounts to players, you can play for free and sit through intermittent advertisements or you can pay a small fee and join Club Pogo, which means no more ads, access to loads of special games and weekly challenges where you compete to win beautiful or interesting badges; which are like icons or avatars. Current favorite Club Pogo games in my household - Shuffle Bump (it's a little like curling except you can set your puck on fire!), Penguin Blocks (build bridges over the ice to rescue sea life and you get to whack the evil, evil penguins with a frying pan when they try and steal your fish) and PoppaZoppa (an InfernoKrusher game where you are a giant lizard crushing puny buildings beneath your feet.) One of the things that make Pogo so popular is the ability to play games with family members and friends even when they are thousands of miles away. It's easy to continue a tradition of Sunday evening game night so long as everyone has access to a computer. The real time chat feature lets you catch up on gossip while you and your partner trounce everyone else at pinochle.

There are tons of online games that offer the ability to communicate with distant loved ones while playing. You can hunker down in a safe spot and just talk or you can discuss the rising price of gasoline while slashing the enemy in two - in fact this may be the only sane way to discuss gas prices. My middle son has used the Halo II interface to do his physics homework with his friend so they didn't have to spend the gas money getting together in person. Many games, like Halo II, offer voice chat as part of the game, which is especially nice if your gaming partner is far away and dear to you. It helps the illusion that the two of you are really existing in this alternate, digital world. If your game of choice doesn't offer real time voice chat there is a way to get the whole immersive experience; you can download one of the many popular software programs out there (like Google Talk or Skype) and run the application at the same time as your game. You're all set, go out there and *pwn your enemy!

*Own**

**Beat, vanquish, smash, destroy, punish, or otherwise crush.